Is 5 minutes of your life worth $2 HKD?



Apparently to some people it is. Five days a week during Hong Kong’s lunch hour, a long line forms along the escalator walkway directly above Hollywood Road. On some days the line snakes all the way down the steps to the nearest exit at Lyndhurst Terrace. A sign of the times? Nope, this has been going on for over two years! What’s the draw?

A few years ago the MTR, Hong Kong’s subway system, began offering ‘fare saver‘ discounts in different locations around the city.


Placing your Octopus card above a sensor on the stand-alone machine registers the card to receive a discount on an MTR ride originating in a specific nearby station.


For example, the Hollywood Road location entitles you to a $2 HKD discount on an MTR ride originating in Central. (Some discount machines in other areas only offer a $1 HKD savings.) Depending on your timing during lunch (which normally runs from 1:00 to 2,) the wait can average around five minutes or more.

Some genius came up with the idea to send a lone representative to the fare saver machine to swipe everyone from their office’s Octopus cards. That was brilliant, except you now have several offices doing it during lunch time and they clog up what would normally be a semi-smoothly running line. You can spot them standing huddled in front of the machines furtively taking turns swiping Octopus cards, while the line slowly inches forward.

Seeing people queuing for this day after day puzzles me. I understand that the discount adds up, but when you’re working in an office, isn’t your free time all the more precious to you? I suppose I come from a different culture where people abhor waiting on lines. To see crowds trading their time for such a small sum, actually bothers me. What does this say about the mentality of the average office worker? Are they just biding their time at their desk as well?

While the machines are practical if you are passing by at the start of your commute, it seems cumbersome to go out of the way to line up on your own limited time.

If you want to start getting in on the action, go here for a list of all the (twenty-two!) MTR Fare Saver machines.



  • Ha! Yeah, that’s why I’ve been so prolific lately! The negative ones actually come naturally to me!

    It’s the positive stuff that really takes work!


  • C’mon man. You know we’re talking about Chinese people here. We’ll do anything to save a buck. lol

  • Hehehe. Credit crunch too, so the lines are gettig longer. It’s a pity that the saver doesn’t work for the ding ding – otherwise that’d be a free ride to causeway. First time reader, btw. Nice work.

  • haha i’d seen those long lines too…i guess these peeps dont understand time is money?
    but then i guess it’s cuz the fast food restaurants serve food so fast that they have extra time from their lunch break to queue up in line…

    the craziest shit i saw was ladies wit a whole stack of their co-workers octopus cards…priceless

  • i have been wondering why this Fare-saver Machine is at this awkward location? Miles away from the MTR transport system… I would be very curious to know how far some people walk just to get to this machine. This calls for a little tracking experiment!

    Why it is worth 5 minutes of some people’s time? Well, hypothetically: Say you get delegated to swipe cards of all your 20 co-workers. With a commission of 50% you can earn $20 in just 5 minutes of swiping all cards, whilst each of your co-workers earns $1 for doing nothing. Even if all workers end up taking turns, in a work month of 20 days this means you only need to make the trip to the machine once per month – and still earn $40! And we all know: $40 can take you a long way in Hong Kong.

  • LOOK at that line! I only use this thing if there is literally NOBODY standing around it…I usually wont even line up behind one person haha.

  • Hi A!

    Wow, impressive photos on your blog! I especially liked the one with that mountain of bamboo. I tried to shoot something similar, but it was night time, and I just couldn’t capture it accurately. Your photo is awesome! 😉

  • It is a waste of time for $2.

    Moreover, if the MTR really wanted to give this $2 to people and encourage more of us to travel, why put this stupid machine in remote locations, eg in Central, it’s on a passageway, in TST, it is on the 2nd floor of that labyrinth of Ocean harbour terminal shopping plaza. If these were located strategically in front of shops, fair enough… Yes, of course, if they wanted everyone to get a discount, they’d have lowered the fare.

    However, I see no point in going to that machine for $2, given I got to take 3 escalators and walk all the way there.

  • MAYBE the MTR fare saver is trying to encourage people to walk instead of take cars/buses/taxis. For example the central escalator fare saver is encouraging you to walk down from mid-levels to central mtr, and as a reward they’re giving you $2 discount.

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